Understanding Gender Identity and Sexuality

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While the terms “gender” and “sex” are often used interchangeably, the two words have significantly different definitions. One could argue that sex refers to biological essentialism and the idea that we are who we are because of our genetic material. On the other hand, gender is associated with the social constructionist theory, which argues that the way we are is dependent on our race, class, and sexuality. Because each person is different in their race, class, and sexuality, their gender becomes socially constructed. To argue that gender is not socially constructed would be to say that all people, for example, that are biologically female have the same goals. However, this cannot be true because within the sphere of being female, that individual person varies from the next in their race, class, and/or sexuality, each of which affect their goals and perspectives differently from their sister, friend, and neighbor. One’s gender identity refers to his or her perception of self as a male or female, as well as being masculine or feminine. Because masculinity and femininity are fluid, rather than static, they are dependent on the perspective of the beholder. A person’s perspective is often influenced by their surroundings as well as values with which they were raised, both of which are never identical between two people. Race, class, and sexuality are the underlying factors that influence perspectives and values, thus differentiating the understanding and portrayal of gender identity from one person to another.
When asked to associate characteristics with the female or male sex, many equate reproduction and child-rearing with females because they are the ones that are biologically capable of carrying and giving birth to a child. Howe...

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... begin to impose their values upon society, socially constructed concepts, such as gender identity, have normative and deviant standards. While these standards exist within the society, the concept of a norm varies from person to person as their perceptions and beliefs differ from one another.

Works Cited

Collins, P. (2004). Get Your Freak On: Sex, Babies, and Images of Black Femininity. Black sexual politics: African Americans, gender, and the new racism. New York: Routledge.
Dill, B. T. (1986). Our mothers' grief: racial ethnic women and the maintenance of families. Memphis, Tenn.: Center for Research on Women, Memphis State University.
Han, C. (2006). Being an Oriental, I Could Never Be Completely a Man: Gay Asian Men and the Intersection of Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Class. Race, Gender & Class. New Orleans: Jean Ait Belkhir, Race, Gender & Class Journal.

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